Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Vatican City

As New Year Begins, Pope Prays For Victims Of Tsunamis

Published January 6, 2005

Pope John Paul II ushered in the New Year with prayers for the families and victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and devastating tsunamis that swept through parts of Asia and Africa.

The pope celebrated a special, unscheduled Mass at midnight Dec. 31 in his private chapel with intentions specifically dedicated to all those affected by the disaster, said the Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The pope also prayed for those engaged in relief efforts, the papal spokesman said in a written statement released Jan. 1.

The United Nations estimates some 5 million people were without proper shelter and nearly 2 million were in urgent need of food and water after a series of powerful tsunamis hit 12 Indian Ocean countries.

The death toll continued to climb to 140,000 people, but the United Nations said the true number of those killed in the disaster might never be known, because many bodies were washed out to sea.

In his first Angelus address of the new year, Pope John Paul expressed his continued concern for the people “hit by the tragic cataclysm.”

From the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope assured victims of his prayers, and he praised the international show of solidarity in bringing aid and relief to those most in need.

“The hope for better days in the coming new year which begins today rests upon this sense of human solidarity, along with the help of God,” the pope told some 40,000 people who gathered for the Jan. 1 noontime address.

Earlier that day, the pope presided over a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the occasion of the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Peace.

“Promoting peace on earth is our mission,” the pope said in his homily.

Facing the many evils that injure the human family, peace is best promoted by “giving importance to dialogue, works of justice and teaching forgiveness,” he said.

“Overcoming evil with the weapons of love becomes the way in which each person can contribute toward peace for all peoples,” he said.

Ambassadors from the 174 nations that maintain diplomatic ties to the Holy See attended the Jan. 1 Mass. The pope gave special greetings to those diplomats representing the 12 countries affected by the Dec. 26 tsunamis.

During his Jan. 2 Angelus address, the pope reassured the faithful that God is always by their side, even in times of trouble.

“Faith teaches us that even through the most difficult and painful trials, as with the calamity in Southeast Asia, God never abandons us,” he said from his apartment window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

God is present through the “Christmas mystery,” when God became man through Jesus “to share our existence,” the pope said. God is also made manifest in every concrete act of love and charity, he said.

The pope said Jesus makes “his presence felt” every time people follow his commandment “to love one another as he loved us.” “By walking in his love, this evangelical message offers the foundation for hope in a better world,” he said.

In St. Peter’s Basilica Dec. 31, the pope presided over the end-of-year evening prayer service and the singing of the “Te Deum.”

“We thank you Father because … you sent your Son not to judge the world, but to save it with immense love,” he said.